Some settlers began with no implements but an ax. In conversation, the subject of axes—their ideal weight, their proper helves—was more popular than politics or religion. A man who made good axes, who knew the secrets of tempering the steel and getting the center of gravity right, received the celebrity of an artist and might act accordingly. The best ax maker in southern Indiana was “a dissolute, drunken genius, named Richardson.” Men who really knew how to chop became famous, too. An ax blow requires the same timing of weight shift and wrist action as a golf swing, and as in golf those who where good at it taught others; sometimes all the men in one district learned their stroke from the same axman extraordinaire. A good stroke had a “sweetness” similar to the sound of a well-struck golf or tennis ball, and gave a satisfaction which moved the work along.
Ian Frazier, Family
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